This thing called a BRAND means a lot of things. And a lot of noise is blasted about regarding how to design them, build them, exploit them — it’s like a discussion about God; there are few things as complex but everybody’s an expert.
Here’s what works for me, being the second son of a cowboy, born and raised with Border Collies, Blue Heelers, and Australian Shepherds. My first exposure to the word “brand” was feeling the white-hot branding iron head welded on the end of a fireplace poker, heat radiating onto my face and up my nose and into my eyes. Then the sound of it sizzling the flank of a tied-down calf and the sound of said calf bellowing out in searing pain and seeing its wild-eyed terror. That’s a brand!
I think our brand is that lingering feeling someone has, down in their lizard-brain after we’ve touched them. If we branded them correctly, it’s a pleasant feeling that, at its best, excites some sharing, and at least ends all that analysis hassle of the buying process. When they see us — the branding in our marketing, that residual feeling butterfly kisses their consciousness. They’ll do business with us when they need us, no analysis needed.
But…. Show me the money!
A simple way know if you have that kind of brand is separate your sales into two piles: the sales you won by out-bound selling activity and the sales you simply took the order with essentially zero selling. The sales from simple order-taking is the value of your brand. What’s your share of revenue is brand-driven?
P.S. And the Sales Process isn’t done until the next sale is simple order taking.
We know who our Go-To people are. They’re the ones who Get It, Want It, and have the Capability* to accomplish what needs to be done, or can figure it out. They are both an essential resource and, if they’re the only go-to for a skill, a big risk if they’re not available.
How we go to our go-to people matters, as every time we touch our staff it matters and has the potential to move our enterprise forward.
Consider, however, that going to them to get something done may not be the best thing, however convenient and safe it may be.
Since the only job security is continuous profitable market share growth, for commercial entities anyway, we need more go-to people. We build new go-to people by training them.
So why not go to our go-to people to teach instead of do?!
Making go-to people teachers and trainers builds deepens our talent pool. As the ability to grow is gated by our ability to delegate, and delegation hates risk, then remove such risks by training others.
Teach our go-to people to teach.
* known as GWC in the Entrepreneurial Operating System, copyright Geno Wickman in Traction.
I’m coming up on my 10-year anniversary, Juneteenth — Emancipation Day. It was a beautiful, Colorado Rockies morning, just west of Carbondale, down the mountain from Aspen on the glorious Crystal River road (Hwy 133). I failed to brake soon enough at a hard left turn at the bottom of McClure Pass (see below), and launched a brand-spanking new, rented Harley-Davidson Road King into the aspens and hammered my left shoulder into the roadside wild flowers.
Blunt force trauma. Fifteen fractures, including six ribs and a clavicle and some chipped vertebrae. The Glenwood Springs ER administered a Fentanyl epidural (at T8, after I nearly passed out from pain on the MRI table) and sorted me out. The follow up, typical of shattered ribs, is six weeks on an Oxycontin base with the occasional Percocet chaser after any kind of cough or incentive spirometer therapy — inhale as much as you can, and suck up the pain (pun intended).
Fortunately, I was armored-up, with a rash-proof jacket and spine and elbow pads and a helmet (which was egg-shelled).
The clavicle was fixated with a titanium rod (still there). A year later, three ribs were pinned together with titanium couplings because the fractured ends would not rejoin. A day or so after that surgery, a journeyman orthopedist yanked out my chest tube with that modest “This might sting a little (wink wink!).” warning. It felt a lot like the original crash!
All because I did two things explained by a crusty old hog rider I met a few years later at a bar, savoring a Margarita (Top Shelf, rocks, no salt). He wagged his tattoo-knuckled finger at me and admonished, “Two things you don’t mix together on cycle at the same time: An unfamiliar bike with an unfamiliar road. You can squeeze by on either one of them — you know the road but not the bike, or you know the bike and not the road. But never both.” I was on a rented touring-size bike on a road I’d only dreamed about.
How pitch-perfectly true. Rider error. No excuses.
It occurred to me this morning, while enjoying that same mountain air in Glenwood Springs — where the Roaring Fork River joins the high-country Colorado River downstream from Vail — that the same two principles apply when leading our company on some new venture (adventure?): We shouldn’t attempt it if we’re unfamiliar with where we’re going (the road) — confidence isn’t enoigh, or the team (the bike) we’re making the journey with.
I see this a lot with the companies we triage. The leader sets the ‘capability goal’ aggressively enough to challenge the business model to go somewhere new and interesting. Like growing 2 or 3X. He or she is usually familiar with their team, but may not really know the road; what life at 2 or 3X; really runs. (Hint: Your culture may keep, but about everything else may change.)
This presses the case to on-board executive or technical experts who know the road, and what changes as we scale up. For one thing, processes start happening. Once simple, straightforward work gets divided into silos to be more efficient. These silos create workflow queues that require management — process management. But that takes supervisor labor (overhead) that costs more cash — but we’re making more cash so maybe it works. Or maybe it doesn’t, and we need to swap capital for labor, or partner and outsource — things to pay attention to.
The problem is that we don’t know what we don’t know as we take our team to a new scale — this new exciting road. And what we don’t know might nearly kill us. The most successful leaders I know have relationships in a network of executives who run enterprises the size they seek, such as Vistage International, a peer advisory association. (Disclaimer: I’m on the Vistage guest speaker circuit).
So, know your team and know the road.
p.s. I personally thank every cyclist I meet who’s wearing a helmet.
A client sponsored a triage of one of their high-value business processes, one that receives and evaluates eligibility requests for a financial benefit. One triager’s point-of-pain was an observation that 70% of requests required rework — reaching out and contacting the applicant for additional information. How or why this information was not captured at the first attempt became an improvement to analyze.
But what is the cost of 70% rework? Inquiring minds want to know. (You can be sure this 70% will be laser-focused fixed now that the team sees it. To their credit, it’s an all-hands-on-deck effort. Some of this rework is caused by unverifiable info from applicants — garbage in.)
I suspected it was exponential — at least non-linear, assuming each attempt had the same probability of failure for illustration purposes. Naturally, real data would adjust this accordingly.
What it tells us is you’ll process twice as many requests as you need to when your re-touch rates are 40% or so. You’re processing three times as many customer touches at about 70% rework. That’s two-thirds of your resources unavailable do something else! The chart gets crazy-ugly at failure rates above 70%, by the way.
We call that kind of process failure a dumpster fire. At 70% rework or customer re-touch, two thirds of your touches are avoidable if your process is designed to deliver a one-and-done customer experience.
The remedy is a blinding flash of the obvious: Reason-code every failure, sort the volume of these reasons using Pareto rules, resolve them in highest-volume order, and raise first attempt success to something less than 10% for starters. If automated systems are used to capture the required information, present it list or check boxes, mandatory field captures, use good scan-and-attach tools, and by all means attempt to educate the benefits applicant on what’s needed before attempting. Here’s my spreadsheet.
That’s what first attempt resolution is worth.
Process Triaging is a decision cycle leaders follow to generate purposeful improvement solutions and then select and implement the best of them.
The cycle works when its driven from deep within our leadership philosophy — our culture. A culture of continuous improvement that is not driven by surface events — by waves.
The improvements we find and undertake will shield our enterprises from storms and rough waters. Triaging is a tactic we apply as rudder adjustments at the helm — minor course corrections. But the practice of triaging — constantly cycling into the best ideas, keeps us centered in the most productive current. Something that carries us along in the right direction regardless of the wind and waves.
What reminded me of this was last week’s Process Triage Immersion Workshop Sponsor. In his opening welcome remarks he announced:
“The executive staff will be taking the improvements you triage today very seriously. After the host’s implementation plan is approved, the selected improvements will be part of our performance review and bonus schedule.”
Think about that.
The triage’s executive sponsor places so much trust and faith in the triaging process, that the CEO and principal staff will hold themselves accountable for improvement proposals nominated and prioritized bottoms-up, by those who live and breath the daily work — before they know what they are!
Here’s a video clip of this triage team ranking their improvement solutions. Notice how the culture created by their executives engages and empowers them.
This company will stay in the right currents.
Their culture is correct and runs deep.
I’ve struggled with how to respond to the many requests for process triage support from entrepreneurs and managers who simply don’t have the budget for our flagship, facilitated workshop (on a napkin here). The short of it is the process mapping we do in the morning, as a team, creates a powerful end-to-end team identity and awareness that’s key to the triage’s final product. That level of effort takes an outside facilitator, especially if it’s a crisis situation.
Is there a way to triage without the team-created process map?
We think so, if its a very small team of no more than six people who know each other’s work and it’s not a break-fix house-on-fire situation. We’re talking about a generally capable team that welcomes more structure to a deliberate continuous process improvement culture.
With that in mind, I designed a Small Team Process Triage Kit.
The kit contains the information, job aids, and supplies to triage a process without a robust process map. Similar to our flagship workshop, the host manager presents their Process Capability Goal, then the triage team identifies Points-of-Pain. These pain points are addressed by the team’s nomination of Small Now & Big Now action items and projects, followed by their ranking of the entire set of proposals. It’s designed to be four-hour team exercise with some pre-work by the host. The host would still draft and submit their 90+Day Implementation Plan to their sponsor after the exercise.
This kit is only suitable for small teams that know each other’s responsibilities and don’t need more than a sketch of their process — something their manager / host could provide. It’s not designed for cross-organizational process triaging.
So, if you’re looking for a small team team-builder exercise that delegates and elevates your continuous process improvement efforts — deeper into your team, this kit’s for you.
For now, we’re shipping only a hard copy version that includes a 32 page workbook and the materials necessary to perform the triage, available from our website.
Leaders of a goal-oriented enterprises must design their organization to change.
While that sounds obvious, designing an organization to deliberately change is a remarkable idea. It requires one sustain a culture that welcomes and embraces adaptability. How else will we grow from less good to good, and from good to great?
One thing we know from process triaging is cultures that successfully improve processes empower the teams that run them. It’s all about delegate and elevate. Professionals will take risks and overcome fears if they have a sense of control over what’s changing, why it’s changing, and when they need to get involved.
Continuously successful process improvements need winning improvement ideas and a funnel that finds the best of the best of these ideas.
The ProcessTriage Cycle is an effective and proven way to fill a funnel with practical, actionable process improvements. Each idea solves a problem that prevents the process from performing to its goal. The quality of your improvement proposals reflect the quality of your best team’s thinking. So check the ‘Great Ideas’ box ‘Done!’
Our field tested (over 1000 times) triaging procedures are a model funnel, capable of processing about 25 improvement proposals per day with a dozen of your process experts — 25 ideas that more than fill up three to six months of improvement effort.
Great ideas + an effective funnel to find them. That’s process triaging.
We’re delighted to announce, by popular demand, our Small Team Process Triage Kit . It’s designed for small organizations and teams who seek a practical and effective team builder exercise that delivers a slate of process improvements to pursue.
The kit includes a self-paced workbook for the host manager or moderator. It includes the necessary triaging materials including Points-of-Pain and Team Triage Proposal (Toe Tag) Cards. It requires about 2 hours of preparation by the host moderator (the manager), a three to four-hour team triage meeting, and a few hours of post-triage host work to craft an implementation plan (should the sponsor require it.). The kit does not include the signature Action>Result-style Process Mapping of our flagship full-day immersion workshop, so you’ll need to provide your own process map sketch.
DISCLAIMER: The Small Team Process Triage Kit does not not include the Certified Process Triage Facilitator coaching and process analysis baked into our flagship immersion workshop service. It does not include the very popular team-binding process mapping exercise. The kit follows our established, robustly filed-tested process triaging method for identifying process points-of-pain and nominating and prioritizing their solutions.
Maybe this Igniteful Question will become a travelogue?
I had the pleasure of dining at The Bridge House, in Milford, Connecticut last week, the evening before a Vistage talk with John Frank’s key leader group (which went well). The Bridge House is a gastropub , a “…restaurant with a casual, relaxed atmosphere, similar to the English / Irish Pub, with menu choices of a quality that would be found in the best fine dining restaurants” (snipped off their website), menu here.
True to form, the ignitful question, ‘What would the chef like to serve tonight?’ yielded succulent results.
My ccourteous, attentive server, Nancy, started me off with Salt and Pepper Shrimp. One word — AMAZING! The salted and peppered shrimp were perched over a bed of sweet and sour cucumbers, artichoke heart, olives — really big ones, with a nice, zippy note of Tobasco.
There’s the charming Nancy — my smart phone somehow tried to take a movie of it, so its a screen shot. The entree’ was a Hudson Valley Duck Breast –goats cheese “farotto”, Brussels sprouts in garlic jus. (Yes, I love sprouts!). The farotto was new to me, and fun, and the duck was surprisingly tender. Two for two.
We finished everything off with a Crème brûlée and a coffee.
Nancy’s smile says it all.